Toward an Economic Justice Plan in Pomona

This article appeared in the Daily Bulletn

By Jose Zapata Calderon

POSTED: 09/06/13, 11:05 AM PDT | Read this article in the Daily Bulletin

The Daily Bulletin editorial “Economic injustice in Pomona” (Sept. 5) is on the right track in proposing solutions to the growing street violence in the city that include the creation of a climate where community residents have some trust in their city officials and where Pomona becomes “a city of opportunity.”

In a series of “Community Messaging Ad Hoc Committee” meetings last spring, I and other community advocates in the region proposed that the most successful strategies for dealing with growing violence among youth needed to focus on prevention rather than criminalization and enforcement.

At an April 30 meeting, I proposed that “gang violence would not exist if they (gangs) did not satisfy the desperate needs of young people for family, education, mentoring, housing, employment, health, spiritual and social support.”

In the last few years, the Pomona Habla coalition has consistently raised to the City Council that there could be no “trust” as long as the Pomona police continue to use checkpoints and saturation enforcement tactics that primarily target the majority-minority population in the city. There have continued to be “deaf ears” to the studies, such as that of the Latino Decisions/Center for American Progress Action Fund/America’s Voice poll, which found that “79 percent of Latinos nationwide believed that Latinos who are legal immigrants or U.S. citizens will get stopped or questioned by police.”

It is no coincidence then why many of the cases in Pomona are not solved when the tactics used have not been in the direction of cooperation but more focused on strategies that have affected both the immigrant and non-immigrant communities.

The use of enforcement tactics does not get at the long-term needs of a community for employment, health, housing, education and economic development opportunities. These needs cannot simply be solved through ideological “messaging” or “spiritual” soul-awakening from the pulpits, but need to be concretized in long-term collaboration and planning between the public and private sectors.

The successful model, created by Father Gregory Boyle in Los Angeles, gets at the “spiritual” needs of gang-involved youth by creating programs that get at the “material” foundations of those needs: through the development of an alternative elementary school, an after-school program, a day care program, a community organizing project, and a Homeboy Industries’ economic development project (that includes Homeboy Bakery, Homeboy Silkscreen, Homeboy/Homegirl Merchandise, Homeboy Diner, Homeboy Farmers Markets, Homeboy Plumbing and Homegirl Café).

A similar prevention program could be advanced in Pomona but needs the economic investment of both the government and business sector in developing an “economic justice plan” that includes the capacity-building strategies of quality jobs, housing, health, education and pre-school/after-school programs (particularly in the low-income sectors of the community).

Jose Zapata Calderon is president of the Latino and Latina Roundtable of the San Gabriel and Pomona Valley, and emeritus professor of sociology and Chicano studies at Pitzer College in Claremont.

The successful model gets at the “spiritual” needs of gang-involved youth by creating programs that get at the “material” foundations of those needs.

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